As a newly married girl and living with in-laws, grocery shopping was a tough task for me. Having stayed on my own before marriage, I had my own budget and my own list of things required for survival. The list after marriage was quite dry and uninteresting, who can get excited about buying rice, lentils and oil. In addition, the idea of changing brands I preferred was like giving away my child for adoption. I survived and so did my in-laws, now I am a bit wiser and somewhat flexible.
In India, grocery shopping was once a month chore. Buy raw materials from either a supermarket or your trusted, used for generations’ grocery shop and then transform it into something palatable. In 'phoren' lands, grocery shopping becomes almost a weekly affair and sometimes more often. Since there are no milkmen dropping off packets of milk, storing milk becomes a major concern. Moreover, there are no shops just across the road and no home delivery of grocery, no dialing the phone and saying ‘Bhaiyya, jara ek bread aur sugar bhej denge apartment 18 mein’.
The first step is making a list (I always forget to take it with me, but I never forget to make one). This means you go and check all the nooks and crannies in your kitchen closets to check what goes on the ‘To-Buy’ list. Since we are taking pains to reduce our carbon footprint, we carry our own jute bags and say no to plastic (one good deed, a little less guilt), this is the second step. The third step is when we enter the supermarket and Hubs gives me a practiced look of disapproval as I scoot off towards the cosmetics section as if on a treasure hunt (I have obsession about all things which smell nice).
Last week, hubs and I went to for our usual shopping expedition. This time I had asked hubs to check the freezer for stuff we needed. I had friends coming over for a couple of days visit and did not want to run to the supermarket when they were here. Since I had planned to make ‘Matar Paneer’ (Peas and cottage cheese curry), I had asked hubs to check if we had frozen peas. With confidence oozing out of every pore, he had thumped his chest and said ‘ We have one unopened bag of peas’, Looking at his self confidence, I kept my mouth shut in spite of having a funny tingling sensation in my gut, when we were standing right in front of the frozen vegetable section.
The next day, I started cooking a couple of hours before my friends were to arrive. With a song on my lips and a smile on my face, I went to get the ingredients for ‘Matar Paneer’. I dipped my hands in the freezer and pulled out a crumpled bag of peas with a handful of them resting at the bottom. I started rooting around for that mysterious unopened bag. I pulled out frozen mix vegetables, Sweetcorn, peppers, chicken, and a forgotten bag of frozen cauliflower. I emptied the entire freezer and still no sign of the Peas. By this time my worst fears were coming true, I had no peas. I had perfected the recipe and was looking forward to showing it off to my friends so I had to make it.
After flinging, a few choice swear words in hubs direction, I scratched my head and then picked up the bag of frozen mix vegetables. I knew it had a mixture of beans, carrots, Sweetcorn, and peas. Voila! I dumped the entire contents into a pot and saw peas nestled amongst other vegetables. Only thing left was, to go peas picking.
It took me half an hour to separate the peas from its other brethren to get a decent amount along with the handful in the crumpled bag I had found earlier for the curry.
My friends loved the curry and all that hard work paid off.
Note to self: Clean out the freezer more often and always listen to your gut while shopping even if the love of your life is thumping his chest with confidence.